Clarence Seay: Man of Principles

In association with the current exhibit, “Prejudice, Perseverance, and Pride: Black Education in Central Virginia, 1923-1970,” the Legacy Museum hosted a presentation on Clarence W. Seay, principle of Dunbar High School from 1938-1968. The presentation by Hermina Hendricks, director of multicultural student services at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and Rehema Kahurananga, R-MWC Class of 2004, was the product of a study made possible by a summer research grant from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

The numerous photographs and life-size image of Seay evoked fond memories. Many in in the audience had attended Dunbar or had taught under Mr. Seay. Like Hendricks, they recalled the principal with respect and not a little awe. Elaine Watson, a Dunbar student and teacher, commented that Seay “wanted perfection from everyone around him…and he got it.” She recalled that most of the teachers had master’s degrees. Dunbar graduates were admitted to all of the best colleges, she said, “and they were well prepared.”

The research involved reading Seay’s papers, held at the Lynchburg Museum; reading old newspapers; and interviewing Lynchburgers who knew Seay well. Hendricks spoke repeatedly of the passion she has for this project. There is a great deal more to do, including interviewing people from every graduating class.

The study afforded Kahurananga, whose home is Arusha, Tanzania, an opportunity to learn about the U.S. civil rights struggle as it was played out at the local level and to acquire an appreciation of the crucial role principled individuals like Clarence Seay played in that struggle.

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